Over the past few years, India has emerged as one of the top five markets for mobile gaming in the world. According to Statista Research & Analysis, the number of mobile gamers across India will increase from 269 million in 2018 to 368 million in 2022, driven by the growing smartphone adoption. As per recent studies, the number of smartphone users in India would reach 530 million by end 2019.
The Mobile Marketing Association’s “Power of Mobile Gaming in India” report suggests that people spend more time on mobile games than video streaming apps or television. According to the report, three out of four gamers play mobile games at least twice a day. It pointed out that the time spent on mobile games has increased to over an hour every day, which is higher than the 45 minutes spent on video streaming.
Given this trend, there exists a huge opportunity for stakeholders to leverage this large and engaged user base. As per recent market studies, the Indian mobile games market is projected to reach $1.1 billion by end 2020. A look at some of the key drivers of the mobile gaming industry, major challenges and opportunities in this space…
- Growth in smartphones: The increased accessibility to smartphones has been one of the major factors driving the growth of the mobile games market. According to Counterpoint Research, the shipments of smartphones grew to 37 million units during the second quarter of 2019. The easy availability of competitively priced smartphones means that now people do not necessarily have to invest in a playstation or any other video game console to satisfy their gaming needs. They can simply access mobile games through the app store in their phones. The newer generation of smartphones, which come with better configuration, are packed with better processors, batteries and operating systems, making them capable of supporting high console quality graphics, and taking mobile gaming to a whole new level.
- Improved access and pricing of data services: Complementing the growth in smartphone usage is the fact that the cost of using data services has been going down considerably. Since the launch of Jio in 2016, data tariffs have come down by a significant margin. This, along with the emergence of more advanced technologies such as 4G and VoLTE, has made it much easier for users to download these games whenever and from wherever. The overall mobile gaming experience has improved considerably due to better speeds provided on these networks.
- Emergence of innovative gaming formats: Of late, mobile game developers have started introducing more innovations in game formats. As part of this effort, they are bringing real-world games to the table. Such games allow users to interact with real people (that is, other players) from across the world, deal in real goods such as money, while operating from the comfort of their home. Mobile game developers have also started introducing games which are more local in nature, drawing inspiration from the cultures and lifestyles of local people who are the target audience. These innovative new-age gaming formats are transforming the way people seek entertainment, driving them away from television and drawing them into the world of mobile gaming.
While the mobile gaming industry is expected to witness significant growth in the coming years, the challenges plaguing the segment will need to be ironed out.
- Control management on smartphones: Although smartphones have come a long way in terms of providing a smooth gaming experience, there is scope for more improvement. One of the key challenges faced while playing games on smartphones is the problem of touch controls. There are certain games that can be enjoyed better when played using a gamepad control and don’t really work well on the touchscreen device. This is because smartphones provide limited scope in terms of managing and switching of the controls vis-à-vis traditional gaming devices, which enabled easy manoeuvring and navigation through an elaborate scheme of buttons on its gamepad.
- Security challenges: These are one of the major concerns in the mobile gaming industry. Often users are required to provide personal information in order to be able to play the game, which poses a threat to their security. In cases where users need to purchase the game, providing information such as credit card and bank account details poses financial risks.
- Game discovery challenges: While the mobile gaming industry is booming, game developers are concerned about the possibility of non-discovery, and therefore poor uptake, of their games by users. Given the plethora of games available today, it is very difficult even for a well-established gaming company to make sure that its games are discovered by the target audience. The Indian mobile gaming industry has become very competitive over the past few years. Thus, in order to be successful it is necessary to have a well-thought out end-to-end plan, a strong acquisition strategy, and a unique service offering which can help differentiate one’s own game from the larger crowd.
Opportunities and the way forward
The challenges notwithstanding, the mobile gaming segment offers attractive investment prospects. From individual angel investors to big venture capital (VC) firms, everyone is investing in promising mobile gaming companies. The Indian online gaming industry is growing into a billion-dollar opportunity for investors. While global giants such as Google have been taking advantage of this trend, individual investors and small start-ups are not far behind.
In recent years, there has been a surge in the number of mobile gaming start-ups. According to a market study, the demand for online gaming has gone up significantly during the past decade. From just 25 gaming companies in 2010, the industry now has close to 250 firms effectively leveraging the opportunities presented by the increasing smartphone user base. They keep innovating their portfolio of offerings in order to engage users and keep them hooked to their games for long durations. This enables them to capitalise on this user base at later stages.
The mobile gaming industry also provides employment opportunities for application developers and graphic designers. Given the surge in demand for mobile games, gaming companies are increasingly looking for talented designers and developers who can effectively address the need to constantly innovate. This is necessary to stay afloat in the highly competitive business of mobile gaming.
There also exists an opportunity for advertising agencies to reach out to their target audience through mobile games. These games are popular both in rural and urban areas. People playing these games come from different walks of life and varied economic backgrounds. Thus, mobile gaming is becoming an interesting proposition for advertisers.